Investigating the synergistic role of heavy metals in Arsenic-induced skin lesions in West Bengal, India


Background: Arsenic toxicity is one of the major health issues throughout the world. Approximately 108 countries that account for more than 230 million people worldwide are at high risk of arsenic poisoning mainly through drinking water and diet. Chronic exposure to arsenic causes several pathophysiological end-points including skin lesions, peripheral neuropathy, cancer, etc. In India, the population living in the lower Gangetic basin possesses a great risk of arsenicosis and other diseases. Scientists are trying to understand the gene-environmental interactions behind arsenic toxicity revealing the potential role of genetic variants of individuals. Few pieces of the literature showed that the population is not exposed to a mixture of metals. Hence, in this study, an attempt has been made to explore whether some other metals play a synergistic role in As-induced toxicity.

Methods: For this, an assessment of the level of heavy metals using ED-XRF in soil, vegetables from As-exposed areas along with quantification of the heavy metal concentration in human blood and hair of the As-exposed population were conducted.

Results: Results show the concentration of urinary arsenic is very high signifying the magnitude of the exposure. In addition to this, the levels of iron (Fe), copper (Cu), chromium (Cr) were found to be very high in soil and Fe, manganese (Mn), lead (Pb) in vegetables were exceeding the WHO/FAO recommended permissible limit. However, Fe and zinc (Zn) were predominantly high in whole blood and hair of the arsenic-exposed population when compared with the control population.

Conclusion: It can be confirmed that the population from Murshidabad is exposed to As and other heavy metals through drinking water as well as food. Particularly for this population, Fe, Zn and rubidium (Rb) may play a synergistic role in arsenic-induced toxicity. However, further studies on the large population-based investigation are required to establish the chemistry of the metal toxicity.

Authors: Shuvam Banerjee, Shrinjana Dhar, M Sudarshan, Anindita Chakraborty, Sandip Bhattacharjee, Pritha Bhattacharjee
; Full Source: Journal of trace elements in medicine and biology. 2022 Nov 11;75:127103. doi: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2022.127103.